Friday, June 26, 2009

The Role of the Drummer In a Rehearsal

Gone are the days where you simply show up for a rehearsal…at least they need to be.

A rehearsal is not the time for you to learn the music, that should have happened before the rehearsal, in your own practice time. A rehearsal is geared towards ironing out all of the small details…the bridge section that may be a little tricky, how you’ll start the tunes, tempo adjustments for live performance, and so forth. If you come to the rehearsal with the music halfway learned, you’ve broken the golden rule. I know, I know, everyone else doesn’t know the tunes…that’s not the point. You’re not everyone else, you’re wanting to actually get a call back. Nothing will impress a bandleader more than them knowing that they don’t need to babysit you.

So what do you need to be prepared for?

Here’s a simple checklist that I mentally check off every time I go to a rehearsal…especially if it’s with a new artist or bandleader…

-Know the tunes…we just went over that, but it bears repeating. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve secured a gig just from that simple thing alone.

-Have the charts that have been provided with you or make charts of your own…If you’re given charts ahead of time you should have already gone through the chart with the recording and made notes. If there was no recording given, you still need to peruse the chart itself and mark any sections that may need special attention…i.e. tempo changes, unison hits, styles, codas. If you were just given a recording and no chart, make your own…yes, that’s right, make your own. It doesn’t have to be a “legit” chart, but at least a roadmap that you understand. Even if you’ve memorized the tunes you still need to bring the charts for marking any rehearsal changes.

-Have all tempos marked…I didn’t run into this so much until I moved to Nashville and began doing artist dates. They recorded that song at a certain tempo for a reason. If they want to change it for the live performance, that’s their prerogative. Your job is to know the original tempo. 99% of the time they will be expecting you to count off all of the tunes also…you are the drummer after all.

-Bring a metronome…My Dr. Beat has saved my butt so many times it’s not even funny. Some bandleaders and artists will want you to play to a click the whole show. You’ll definitely need it to at least have a starting point to count everyone off with. This helps with consistency night after night and prevents the guitar player from turning around and telling you “You’re playing it faster than last night!”. Simply point to the metronome and they should get the point…

-Bring a pen…Do I really need to mention this? You can’t make notes without a writing utensil…pricking your finger and writing in blood can work, but it’s messy…

-Bring a good attitude…If they want to change the tempo, who cares. If they want to change it from an up-tempo swing to a bossa nova, who cares. If they want you to stand on your head and play a train beat, who cares. You’re there to serve the person who hired you and the music. Check your ego at the door. Nothing will get you fired quicker than a bad attitude. I would rather have a competent player with a great attitude working with me than a phenomenal player with a chip on his shoulder.

The point is to go into this rehearsal like its Madison Square Garden. Many times the only chance you’ll have to impress them will be in that first rehearsal…and if you don’t, well, don’t worry…there won’t be a second rehearsal, they’ll just find someone else. The pay I get is for the preparation, the gig is the fun part. I’ve got an upcoming date with a well known country artist…and there won’t be a rehearsal. If I go in knowing that show halfway and with no tempo markings, I’m dead in the water…it doesn’t matter how good of a player I am. Do all of these things and you’ll look more polished, professional, and reliable…and I promise, you’ll get a call back.


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